Implementing Data Center and Disaster Recovery Data Center for Saigon Co.op

Introduction to Saigon Co.op

Saigon Co.op, commonly known as the Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives in Ho Chi Minh City, is considered one of the leading retail companies in Vietnam with multiple supermarket chains nationwide, including Co.op Mart, Co.op Food, Co.op Extra. As of early 2021, Saigon Co.op has over 130 supermarkets and more than 1,000 retail points across the country.

With the aim of maintaining its position as the top retailer in Vietnam through rapid and sustainable development, Saigon Co.op places significant emphasis on investing in information technology (IT). It has established a long-term IT strategy, taking the lead in digital transformation and efficiently applying IT in diversifying business models and enhancing service quality for customers.

Requirements of Saigon Co.op

With the increasing number of retail points reaching hundreds per year and continuous expansion of online sales channels, the need for establishing a Data Center (DC) and Disaster Recovery Center (DR) has become essential. The DC-DR system must not only ensure connectivity, provide sufficient resources for applications, and ensure security, but also guarantee disaster recovery capabilities, high scalability, and flexibility for deploying applications and services. Given the large scale, complexity, and high-speed development of the IT system, the requirements for Saigon Co.op's DC-DR system are not simple:

- Building a Data Center (DC) and Disaster Recovery Center (DR) with the latest advanced technologies, supporting nearly 200 servers, hundreds of applications and databases, and thousands of connections to supermarkets, branches, and retail points nationwide.
- Implementing an active-active approach for DC and DR operations. This means that the DR not only functions as a backup when a disaster occurs but can also operate simultaneously with the DC under normal conditions, distributing the workload between them.
- Implementing a flexible and easily scalable Fabric core network in data centers to meet the load balancing requirements of upper-layer applications.
- TConnecting all supermarkets, branches, and retail points nationwide to both the DC and DR, enabling simultaneous access to optimize resources.
- Allowing internet users to access services published from the DMZ zone, with load balancing distributed to both DC and DR.

HPT's Solution

Before constructing the DC-DR for Saigon Co.op, the existing network infrastructure of the data center relied on traditional technologies, using Catalyst 3750 switches for central switching with limited scalability and bandwidth. The connections to the DC mainly relied on MPLS leased lines from telecommunications service providers, which incurred high costs but offered low bandwidth. The system lacked resilience in the event of incidents.

After conducting a thorough assessment of the current situation and requirements of Saigon Co.op, HPT, with its team of experienced engineers and experts, focused on designing and implementing a Data Center and Disaster Recovery Center using the most advanced and suitable technologies to meet Saigon Co.op's strict requirements, helping the customer enhance business efficiency, optimize infrastructure investment costs:

- Establish DC-DR connectivity based on Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) technology, enabling easy expansion. This allows the application development team to deploy servers and applications at any site without concerns about network design. 
- Build a firewall system, which is essential for data centers. The Cisco ASA Clustering Inter-site solution was implemented, consolidating all firewalls at the DC and DR into a single unit, controlling and load balancing all access to the DC and DR, thus enhancing security and connectivity across the entire system.
- Construct the core network in data centers using Cisco Nexus 9000, providing high-speed connectivity for server infrastructure. With Fabric Extenders (FEX) technology, the network infrastructure is easily expandable and upgradable while remaining simple to manage and operate.
- Design and deploy the WAN network using dual-hub DMVPN technology, allowing simultaneous connectivity to both the DC and DR. This is achieved through high-speed internet connections, encapsulated with IPSec to ensure secure connectivity. With this design, Saigon Co.op can reduce MPLS lines and minimize costs.
- In addition, the solution includes implementing EIGRP routing to increase convergence speed. All devices are designed with high availability, multiple concurrent connections, multi-layer firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to enhance system security.
It is worth noting that the deployment plans and strategies are meticulously and carefully designed to ensure no disruption to the operations of hundreds of supermarkets and retail points serving millions of customers nationwide. Most deployment tasks are conducted outside of regular working hours, during the night, and always ensure the ability to safely roll back in case of any subjective or objective issues encountered during the deployment process.
Achieved Results
After a challenging and prolonged deployment process due to its complexity, large scale, and strict deployment requirements from Saigon Co.op, the new DC-DR system has finally been successfully built. The migration from the old system to the new system was carefully executed by HPT, ensuring system and data safety:
- The Active/Active DC/DR model has been successfully implemented, minimizing RTO/RPO in disaster recovery for Saigon Co.op
- Both the DC and DR operate, providing resources and connectivity, not only enhancing the system's capacity twofold but also maximizing the investment made by Saigon Co.op. 
- The application development team can fully leverage the infrastructure resources of the DC and DR without being constrained by network design.
- Saigon Co.op has reduced hundreds of dedicated MPLS channels and replaced them with new connections deployed by HPT, resulting in significant cost savings in transmission line operation.
- The system has been strengthened with centralized protection, monitoring, and analysis, simplifying and enhancing automation for the management and operation team.
It can be said that the new DC-DR system plays a crucial role in Saigon Co.op's IT development and overall business growth. In early 2021, Saigon Co.op confidently announced its development plan until 2025. Accordingly, Saigon Co.op will accelerate the expansion of its retail network to a minimum of 2,000 points of sale by 2025 (double the current number), covering the distribution system nationwide, and continue to maintain and enhance its position as the leading retailer in Vietnam.